U.S. Government: Congress, President and Courts Political Science 1337 - University of Houston
Spring 2017 – Midterm Review Sheet
This review sheet is intended to guide your studies, and is by no means a substitute for properly preparing for the exam. Students should be able to answer true/false and multiple choice questions on the following material:
1. The Constitution
• Purpose/elements of a constitution
- May be written (US) or unwritten (Great Britain).
- Vague and ambiguous language
Ultimately, the US Supreme Court decides whether laws are constitutional
- Thomas Jefferson: “Every constitution … naturally expires at the end of 19 years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force and not of right.”
- 1. Mission Statement outlines long-term goals
Preamble of the US Constitution seeks to “establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, If you want to learn more check out What is the meaning of novelty matching?
provide for the common defense, promote the
general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of
Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity”
- 2. Foundational Structures
First 3 Articles name the Legislative, Executive, and Judicial branches and the responsibilities of If you want to learn more check out What is the meaning of anomie theories?
each body as well as the relationships between
- 3. Details on operating procedures
Articles that outline how national officials are selected, how laws are made, and how the
constitution can be ratified
• Significance of events leading up to the American Revolution (for example, the
Stamp Act, Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, etc)
- The Boston Massacre, March 5, 1770
When an angry mob of nearly 1,800 struggling colonists clashed with the British soldiers. Don't forget about the age old question of According to piaget, schemes are mental structures that infants use to understand the world. they use these to group similar things and with experience, these schemes change. the changes are called what?
The soldiers shot into the crowd, leaving five dead and six wounded.
- Massachusetts Committee of Correspondence (1772)
A group dedicated to encouraging and maintaining the free flow of information and the spread of calls for rebellion among the Massachusetts colonists.
- The Tea Act (1773)
Gave the East India Tea Company a monopoly on tea imported into the colonies.
- The Boston Tea Party, December 16, 1773
More than 100 colonists, dressed as Mohawk Indians, boarded the three ships, broke open hundreds of crates, and dumped thousands of pounds of tea into the harbor.
It had a cataclysmic effect, not only on the relationship between Britain and the colonies but also on relationships among the colonists themselves. We also discuss several other topics like What is the meaning of signifier-signified?
- Parliament responded with the Coercive Acts (Intolerable Acts), which closed port of Boston in 1774, and followed with imposing martial law, suspension of state Assembly, and a ban on town meetings
• Declaration of Independence and Natural Rights
- Declaration of Independence
Unanimously endorsed by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776
Thomas Jefferson drew upon work of John Locke and Jean-Jacques Rousseau
- Natural rights (unalienable rights) - The rights possessed by all humans as a gift from nature, or God, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
• Differences between the Articles of Confederation and the Constitution
- Articles of Confederation If you want to learn more check out What are the biological causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder?
1781 - 1789
The states created an alliance for mutual well being in the international realm yet continued to pursue independently their own self-interests, within their own borders.
In 1781, after 13 states ratified it, the Articles of Confederation went into effect, as the War for Independence continued for another two years. - Constitution
The fundamental principles of a government and the basic structure and procedures by which the government operates to fulfill those principles
• Meaning of dual sovereignty and federal system of government - Dual Sovereignty
Shared power between central and regional governments
Today known as a “Federal” system of government
- Federal System of Government
The division of powers between a national government and regional governments
• Understanding of separation of powers/checks and balances - Separation of powers - The Constitution's delegation of authority for the primary governing functions among three branches of government so that no one group of government officials controls all the governing functions. Don't forget about the age old question of What is a legally registered brand name or trade name?
- Checks and balances - A system in which each branch of government can monitor and limit the functions of the other branches.
- Three branches of government (executive, legislative, judicial) prevented one group of governing officials from controlling all governing functions
- Also, established mechanisms by which each branch can monitor and limit the functions of the other branches to ensure that no branch acts to the detriment of citizens’ natural rights
• Article I, II, and III of the Constitution (do not memorize these articles, instead be familiar with which branch of government each Article discusses)
- Article I enumerates the areas Congress has the authority to make laws
Interstate commerce and foreign commerce System of money
- Article II enumerates the President’s responsibility to ensure proper implementation of the laws
Along with Senate’s approval, authority to make international treaties and to appoint foreign ambassadors
- Article III enumerates jurisdiction of the Supreme Court and federal courts
Disagreements between state governments
Conflicts with citizens from two states
• Federalist versus Anti-Federalist debate (key points of contention/key players) Bill of Rights
- Federalist supported the Constitution as presented by the convention delegates
- Anti-Federalists opposed the Constitution and said it gave the national government too much power
- Discussion characterized the Constitutional Convention of 1787
• Ratifying a Constitutional amendment
- On September 17, 1787, 39 Convention delegates signed the Constitution
- They knew unanimous approval was unlikely, and so added a new Ratification process that required just nine states’ approval
- Created the United States of American in 9 Articles 2. Federalism
• Main difference between unitary, confederal, and federal systems of government
- Unitary System
Majority of world’s nations, including Great Britain, have unitary systems
In a unitary system, the central government is sovereign
The central government can unilaterally create and eliminate regional governments
Central government can take away any responsibilities it has delegated to the regional governments
- Confederal System
Several independent sovereign governments that agree to work together
They cooperate on specific matters, but each retains final authority over all other matters within its borders
The cooperating sovereign governments delegate some responsibilities to a central governing body The sovereign governments retain ultimate authority
- Federal System
The Constitution established dual sovereignty with a new, sovereign national government for the United States and modifying the sovereignty of the existing state governments
The national government has no legal superior on matters over which the Constitution gives it authority, and the state governments have no legal superior on the matters over which they are granted authority by the Constitution
• Concurrent powers of national and state governments - Basic governing functions that are exercised by the national and state governments independently, and at the same time, including the power to make policy, raise revenue, implement policies, and establish courts.
• Enumerated versus implied powers
- Enumerated powers
Ones that are listed in the Constitution
- Implied powers
Ones that are not explicitly described but may be interpreted to be necessary to fulfill the enumerated powers
• Supreme law of the land
- The U.S. Constitution's description of its own authority, meaning that all laws made by governments within the United States must be in compliance with the Constitution.
• Elastic Clause
- Known as necessary and proper clause that is a clause in Article I, section 8, of the Constitution that gives Congress the power to do whatever it deems necessary and constitutional to meet its enumerated obligations; the basis for the implied powers.
• Sixteenth Amendment
- Allowed Congress to use taxes to raise revenue • Categorical versus block grants and mandates
- Categorical formula grant: grant for a narrow and specific purpose, as defined by the federal government - Categorical grant projects: state and local governments compete by proposing specific projects they wish to implement and the level of funding required
- Block grants: grants for broadly defined policy areas, with fewer strings but based on formula
- Mandates: grants that require action by state and local governments
- Funded mandates: national government foots the entire bill
- Unfunded mandates: state and local governments must pay all or part of the cost
• Reapportionment versus redistricting
- Reapportionment: reallocation of House of Representative seats based on changes in a state’s population since the last census
- Redistricting: redrawing of congressional district boundaries within a state, based census reapportionment
- Redrawing of congressional boundaries for political advantage (to benefit an incumbent, a political party, or some other group)
• Incumbency advantage (main reasons why incumbent MCs remain in office)
- Stronger name recognition
- Easier access to media coverage
- Redistricting that favors the incumbent party
- Campaign contributions
• Enumerated powers of Congress
- The primary source of congressional authority is the U.S. Constitution
- The Constitution enumerates to Congress a number of different powers
- The necessary and proper (elastic) clause
- In addition to the Constitution, Congress derives power from Supreme Court decisions, the media, and the people
• Congressional oversight
- The process by which the legislative branch “checks” the executive branch to ensure that the laws Congress has passed are being administered in keeping with legislators' intent.
- It is a check on the executive branch because the federal bureaucracy that implements laws is part of the executive branch.
• Bill in committee
- Most bills that are introduced “die” in committee - The parties in each chamber decide members’ committee and subcommittee assignments
- Committee chairs are chosen by secret ballot - Used to be determined by seniority, but has changed in recent years
- Committee chairs control the flow of work
- When a committee or a subcommittee favors a measure, it usually takes four actions:
- In the House of Representatives, a special measure known as a discharge petition is used to extract a bill from a committee to have it considered by the entire House
• Presidential action on a bill
- When both chambers pass a bill in identical form, it proceeds to the president, who may take one of three actions:
1. President may sign the bill, and it becomes law 2. President may do nothing.
o 1. If Congress is in session, the bill automatically becomes law after 10 days
without the president’s signature.
o 2. If Congress has adjourned, the president may exercise a pocket veto and the bill dies.
3. President may veto the bill. Congress can override the veto with a two-thirds vote in both houses (overriding a presidential veto is rare)
• Basic steps of the legislative process
- 1. Introduction. A member of the House of Representatives or the Senate formally proposes the bill.
- 2. Committee review. Subgroups within the House and the Senate, composed of legislators who have expertise in the bill's subject matter, review the bill.
- 3. House and Senate approval. If the bill makes it out of committee, a majority of members in the House and the Senate must approve it.
- 4. Conference committee reconciliation. The conference committee reconciles the bill when different versions have passed in the House and the Senate.
- 5. Presidential approval. If the president signs the bill, it becomes law. But even after this arduous process, a presidential veto can kill the bill.
4. The Presidency
• Domestic Presidential Roles (Chief Legislator, Chief Economist, Party Leader)
- 1. Chief Legislator
Although the President cannot create laws, she can influence the legislative process by:
o Lobbying its members to support/oppose a
o Defining congressional agenda in State of
the Union message
o Submitting the budget for entire federal
o Signing or vetoing legislation
- 2. Chief Economist: Role is primarily influential, rather than enumerated by Congress
By submitting an annual budget for the entire federal government, the President shapes where federal tax dollars are spent
Set federal economic priorities
Help establish regulatory environment
- 3. Party Leader: as chief of one of only 2 main parties, the president is the symbolic leader for party members Asserts influence by:
o Selecting national party chair
o Acting as party’s premier fundraiser
o Working to promote reelection of candidates from their party
o White House staff appointments come from party ranks
• Foreign Policy Roles (Chief Diplomat, Commander in Chief) - Chief Diplomat: President shapes and administers US foreign policy
Supported by a wide array of foreign policy resources, including:
o State Department
o National Security Council
o Various branches of the military
o Director of National Intelligence
o Negotiates treaties and other international agreements
o Authority to enter into an executive agreement: an international agreement not
subject to Senate approval
Only in effect during that president’s
o Authority to appoint ambassadors
- Commander in Chief: President is supreme military commander of the US Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces
Counseled by advisors, the president decides when to send troops into battle
However, only Congress can formally declare war Sets military strategy in times of peace and war • Overlapping Roles (Chief Executive, Chief of State) - Chief Executive: Head of the executive branch, the president appoints all advisors and staff
President appoints the secretaries (top administrators) of the cabinet
The Cabinet: group of experts chosen by the president to serve as advisors; composed of secretaries of 15 federal agencies
President also appoints numerous other staff members and advisors, including staffing the Executive Office of the President (EOP)
In the capacity of Chief Executive, the president determines how the bureaucracy will implement laws passed by Congress
Also determines which policies will be emphasized over others
- Chief of State: Ceremonial functions
Function of chief of state is ceremonial; role of symbolic leader of the nation “enhances the president’s image and authority and promotes national unity”
Reflects the embodiment of the values of and ideals of the nation, at home and abroad
• Cabinet (number of members, appointment process) - The group of experts chosen by the president to serve as advisers on running the country.
- Since GW, every president has depended on the advice of a cabinet
- These advisors serve as the heads of each of the 15federal departments
- GW’s cabinet only had four departments (justice, state, treasury, and war)
- Department of War is now known as Department of Defense
- A president may also designate cabinet rank to other advisors from non-permanent cabinet departments - Each cabinet member is called the secretary of their department, except head of DoJ
- Head of Department of Justice is called the Attorney General
- GW Bush created the newest department, the Department of Homeland Security, in 2011
• Executive Office of the President
- The offices, councils, and boards that help the president carry out day-to-day tasks
- EOP coordinates policies among different agencies and departments
- Notable offices include: White House Office, Office of Management and Budget, and National Security Council (among others)
• Twenty-Fifth Amendment
- If a president believes he or she is unable to carry out the duties of the office, the president must notify
Congress, and the VP becomes the acting president until the president can resume authority
• Expressed versus Inherent Powers
- Expressed Powers
Presidential powers enumerated in the Constitution.
The primary source of presidential power comes from the Constitution in the form of the expressed powers (enumerated powers)
Expressed powers provide a framework for presidential responsibilities and an outline of presidential power
Serve as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces Appoint heads of executive departments, ambassadors, SC justices, and other federal positions
Pardon crimes (except impeachment)
Enter into treaties, with 2/3 Senate consent Give State of the Union to Congress
Receive ambassadors of other nations
Commission all officers of the US
- Inherent Powers
Presidential powers that are implied in the Constitution.
The take care clause states that “the executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America” and that “he shall take Care that the Laws be faithfully executed.”
On that basis, presidents throughout history have asserted various inherent powers (inferred, but not expressly granted, by the Constitution)
• Special Presidential Powers
- Presidents also have special powers that have evolved from various sources, including the Constitution, Supreme Court decisions, and congressional statutes
- These powers, which numerous presidents have exercised, have come to be regarded as accepted powers and privileges of the presidency
- They include executive orders, emergency powers, and executive privilege
• Impeachment Process
- Impeachable offenses include “Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors”
- If a majority of the members of the House of Representatives vote to impeach the president, they forward the charges against the president, called the articles of impeachment, to the Senate
- The Senate then tries the president and needs two thirds support for conviction
- Senate determines the penalty
- In convicting a president, the Senate has the authority to punish the president by removing him from office - Two presidents have been impeached by the House of Representatives
- None have been convicted and removed from office, although Nixon resigned from office to avoid the inevitable in the wake of the Watergate scandal
5. The Bureaucracy
• Political Appointees
- After each presidential election, the federal government publishes the plum book (a publication that lists the top jobs in the bureaucracy to which the president will appoint people through the patronage system)
- All Presidents until Lincoln used the patronage system for all bureaucratic appointments
- Today, presidents can hire around 3,000 political appointees through the patronage system
- The president hires and fires these appointees at will - More common than firing is the resignation or retirement of appointees who no longer enjoy presidential approval
• Patronage versus merit personnel systems
- Patronage: A personnel system in which the chief executive officer (CEO) can appoint whomever he or she wants to top bureaucratic positions, without the need for open competition for applicants; those hired through patronage typically serve at the pleasure of the CEO who hired them.
- Merit-based civil service: A personnel system in which bureaucrats are hired on the basis of the principles of competence, equal opportunity (open competition), and political neutrality; once hired, these public servants have job protection.
• Pendleton Act
- Created the Civil Service Commission to lessen appointees
- Introduced a merit-based civil service
• Political Neutrality (Misfeasance, Malfeasance, and Nonfeasance) - Merit-based civil servants can only be fired for misfeasance (poor quality of work), nonfeasance (nonperformance of work), and malfeasance (violating the law or rules)
• Civil Service Reform Act
- Created the Senior Executive Services (SES) - Reinforced the Pendleton Act
- Reorganized the management of national civil service - Created three new independent administrative agencies:
Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
Merit System Protection Board (MSPB)
Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA)
• Bureaucratic Agenda Setting
- The determination by Congress of which public issues the government should consider for legislation. - Elected officials decide their policy agendas - Bureaucrats have a clearer view of societal needs and wants
- Results in two phenomena
Issue Networks – web of connections among those concerned about a policy and those who create and administer the policy
• Administrative discretion/administrative rule making - Administrative discretion
The authority delegated to bureaucrats to use their expertise and judgment when determining how to implement public policy.
- Administrative rule making
The process by which upper-level bureaucrats use administrative discretion and expertise to create rules
• Sunshine Laws
- Legislation that opens up government functions and documents to the public.
- Foster transparency and support the public’s right to know about government action
• Types of bureaucratic accountability
- Accountability to the People
- Accountability to the Courts
- Accountability to Congress
- Accountability to the President
- Internal Accountability
6. The Judiciary
• Adversarial judicial system
- Judicial system in which two parties in a legal dispute each present its case
- Court determines which side wins and loses
• Trial courts and original jurisdiction
- Judicial authority to hear cases for the first time and to determine guilt or liability by applying the law to the facts presented
• Appellate courts and appellate jurisdiction
- Authority to review cases heard by other courts to correct errors in the interpretation or application of the law
• Judicial review
- The court’s authority to determine that an action taken by any government official or governing body violates the Constitution
- Established by the Supreme Court in the 1803 Marbury v. Madison case.
• Common Law/Constitutional Law
- Common law: judge-made law grounded in tradition and previous judicial decisions, instead of in legislation - Constitutional Law: The body of law that comes out of the courts in cases involving constitutional interpretation
• Trials versus Appeals
- Jury trial: group of citizens hears evidence and determines guilt or innocence
- Bench trial: judge hears evidence and determines guilt or innocence
- Trials include presentation of evidence and examination of witnesses
- Appellate cases involve briefs by lawyers and an examination of trial transcripts. Cases are decided by majority vote
• Structure of US federal court system
- The federal court system is a three-tiered hierarchical system:
Bottom Tier –US District Courts: trial courts with original jurisdiction over a case
Middle Tier –US Courts of Appeals: appellate courts with appellate jurisdiction
Top Tier –US Supreme Court
• Discretionary versus mandatory jurisdiction
- Discretionary Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to select the cases it will hear from among all the cases appealed to it.
- Mandatory Jurisdiction: The requirement that a court hear all cases filed with it.
• Descriptive/symbolic/substantive representation - Descriptive representation: attempting to ensure that governing bodies include representatives of major demographic groups in proportions similar to their representation in the entire population
- Substantive representation: the assumption that a government official will best serve the concerns of the racial, ethnic, gender, or other group to which they belong
- Symbolic representation: diversity among government officials is a symbol/indication that democracy is functioning appropriately by offering equal opportunity to influence government
• Basic steps once a case is on the Supreme Court’s Docket - 1. Briefs submitted by both sides; amicus curiae briefs filed by interested parties
- 2. Oral arguments presented by attorneys for each side - 3. Justices’ conference: cases, discussed; nonbinding votes taken; opinion writing assigned
- 4. Justices’ opinions drafted and circulated for comment
- 5. Court’s final decision announced
• Concurring/Dissenting Opinions
- Concurring opinions: agree with how the majority opinion decides the case, but disagree with at least
some of the legal arguments or conclusions reached in this majority opinion
- Dissenting opinions: not only disagree with these arguments and conclusions, but also reject the underlying decision in the case
7. Civil Rights
• Inherent characteristics
- Individual characteristics that are part of a person’s nature, such as race, religion, national origin, and gender
• When are the following tests applied: strict scrutiny, heightened scrutiny, and ordinary scrutiny)?
- To determine when unequal treatment is legal
- Strict scrutiny test: government must show that differential treatment is necessary to achieve a compelling public interest
- Heightened scrutiny test (also known as the intermediate scrutiny test) is applied in gender-based discrimination cases
On the basis of this test, sex-based discrimination is legal if the government can prove that it is substantially related to the achievement of an important public interest.
- Under the ordinary scrutiny test, courts require governments to show that the differential treatment is a rational means to achieve a legitimate public interest for which the government is responsible
Also called the rational scrutiny test and is usually applied to age-based differential treatment
• Hate crime
- A crime committed against a person, property, or society, in which the offender is motivated (in whole or in part) by bias against the victim’s race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity
• Civil disobedience
- Active but nonviolent refusal to comply with laws or policies that are morally objectionable
• Jim Crow Laws/Black Codes
- Jim Crow Laws: Laws requiring the strict separation of racial groups, with whites and “nonwhites” required to
attend separate schools, work in different jobs, and use segregated public accommodations, such as transportation and restaurants.
- Black Codes: laws passed immediately after the Civil War by confederate states that limited the rights of formerly enslaved men
• Equal protection clause as it applies to Civil Rights Movement and Women’s Rights Movement
- In the 14th amendment and prohibits states from denying to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws
- Requires states to treat all citizens equally
• Major purpose of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (including Title VII), Voting Rights Act of 1965
- Civil Rights Act of 1964
Outlaws arbitrary discrimination in voter registration practices within states
Bans discrimination in public accommodations, including hotels, restaurants, and theaters
Prohibits state and local governments from banning access to public facilities on the basis of race, religion, or ethnicity
Empowers the U.S. Attorney General to sue to desegregate public schools
Bars government agencies from discrimination, and imposes the threat of the loss of federal funding if an agency violates the ban
Establishes a standard of equality in employment opportunity
- Voting Rights Act of 1965
Banned voter registration practices, such as literacy tests
Mandated federal intervention in any county where less than 50 percent of eligible voters are registered
Shelby v. Alabama (2013) struck down the requirement for some counties in 9 states that they get preclearance from the Justice Department for any law impacting voting procedures
• Declaration of Sentiments
- This Declaration, modeled after the Declaration of Independence, listed many rights and opportunities that the law did not guarantee women, including the right to vote, educational and employment opportunities equal to those of white men, and married women's rights to own property as well as legal standing to sue.
- At the end of the convention, the participants signed the Declaration of Sentiments
• Nineteenth Amendment
- (1920) prohibited national and state governments from abridging or denying citizens the right to vote on account of sex
- National Women’s Suffrage Association
- American Women’s Suffrage Association
- National American Women’s Suffrage Association - National Women’s Party
- Silent Sentinels
• Proposed Equal Rights Amendment
- Alice Paul introduced the ERA in 1923as the next step in bringing "equal justice under law" to all citizens - In 1972, Congress approved the ERA, which states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”
- Opponents of the amendment were successful in defeating the ERA, which had not been ratified by enough states by the deadline of 1982